Swim with a sea cow in VanuatuMaskelyne Islands, Vanuatu
After landing at the tiny Lamap airport we are transferred to a boat ramp and sped out into the islands on a local banana boat. The goal is to spot a dugong, and I'm hoping that I've got lady luck with me on my first snorkel in the outer islands.
In the Maskelyns there are little islands scattered all around and according to the locals there is supposed to be lots of dugongs here, but they do move around sporadically. I'm pretty relaxed about the chance of encountering one and my expectations are reasonably low, so I dive down to explore a two meter high coral covered rock. As I turn around I come face to face with a huge dugong. I'm so close I can see her pupils.
I surface and screech with excitement to my nearby friends.
I realise I may scare her away so I quietly dip under the water again for another look. She's still there and we circle each other playing a game of chasey. She's about two metres long, has a plump appearance, and a whale fluke-like tail. I now get why they're called sea cows. Her monolithic, imposing size makes me nervous but I remember that dugongs eat sea grass (not tourists) and this relieves my anxiety somewhat. After several minutes just before my friends have found their masks and bravery, she's flipped her tail and disappears. I'm grinning ear to ear but she's gone...was she ever there?
Our boat driver manages to find a family of 4 dugongs with small young. We're conscious not to upset them so stay a little distance away. They are mesmerising. We can hear them surface to breath. They are curious and eye us as we spend the afternoon watching them frolick and gracefully glide across the water.
- The totally natural experience with the dugons. They are wild and free as they should be
- Boating in the local banana boats is exhilarating. Being so close to the sea and zipping between islands
- The locals are so friendly and so happy to share their stories and life
- Getting unplugged and focussing on really getting to know the place and people
- If you’re a safety first kinda person, bring your own life jacket as they’re not always on hand
- You may like to have your own snacks as the shops are pretty bare of treats
There’s a few flights each week to the southern airport called Lamap on Malekula Island. Check the domestic schedule and remember if you book when in Vanuatu with your international ticket in hand, you get 20% off your domestic flight price.
Book everything else through the Vanuatu tourist centre either in the provinces santo.travel or go into the office in Port Vila.
You’ll need to be comfortable swimming out in the open seas between the islands. The guide and boat will be nearby.